Book Review: Murder with Ganache by Lucy Burdette

Murder with GanacheMurder With Ganache 
A Key West Food Critic Mystery, Book 4       
Lucy Burdette
Obsidian, February 2014
ISBN: 978-0-451-46589-4
Mass Market Paperback

Haley Snow is the multi-tasking, scooter-ing food critic for a Key West periodical called Key Zest. Besides her job, checking out restaurant fare on the island at the foot of the nation, she dodges killers, manages to avoid calamity among her divorced parents, and tries to manage her best friend’s impending wedding.

In addition to all that she has to ride herd on her own potentially emotional entanglements with her boss at the magazine while dodging a vengeful investor. Readers get a good look at one of the most idiosyncratic communities in the nation, and, in this book, a clutch of almost dysfunctional relatives.

Haley and her mother are good friends, but when Haley’s best buddy decides to get married on a Key West beach, trouble, in the form of a teen-aged half-brother, and somewhat estranged relations who show up for the wedding inevitably follows. Then the kid disappears. Domestic crises run the gamut from mild disengagement to full-throated meddling and accusations of various malfeasances. It’s all a bit much. Meanwhile, cats mutilate a batch of cupcakes destined for the wedding reception.

It all gets sorted out in the end, but the plot wanders a bit too much for my taste, there are too many trying relatives and every so often some less than vital facts get distorted. I have always enjoyed Burdette’s writing and plotting, but I had a persistent feeling that this one was rushed into print lacking a bit of the author’s usual meticulous attention to detail.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

Book Review: Topped Chef by Lucy Burdette

Topped ChefTopped Chef
A Key West Food Critic Mystery
Lucy Burdette
Obsidian/Penguin Group, May 2013
ISBN: 9780451239709
Mass Market Paperback

Murder and felonious maneuverings behind the scenes of a cable TV cooking show, set on one of the more exotic Florida Islands, plus some tasty recipes, and what more could you want for a delightful summer read?

Lucy Burdette, the veteran crime novelist she is, has produced another tasty offering. Even the often tongue-in-cheek epigrams feed the fun. Haley Snow, budding food critic has a job with a struggling Key West magazine called Key Zest. Reviewing restaurant meals is never an easy assignment and in Key West where local opinions on almost anything can run fast and hot, restaurant reports can be easy targets. Haley’s boss signs her up to be a judge on a nascent reality TV cooking show. The program, called “Topped Chef”, has the potential to make the featured chef a wealthy star, so tension is high.

Then murder intervenes when one of the judges is found dead in rather bizarre circumstances. Reluctantly, although she is a bit of a nosy gossip, Haley probes the circumstances of the murder while still trying to maintain some semblance of neutrality as the judging progresses and the program is videotaped. Haley Snow is not cast in the mold of a Sam Spade, she doesn’t own a gun and has to rely on her wits most times. She gets around town on a motor scooter. The novel is peopled with gender-shifting, cross-dressing, homeless and even some tourists of questionable attitudes. They all add to the fun and the pulsing rhythms of the tourist mecca that is Key West.

Consider the title of the novel which can be read in at least three ways, possibly more. The title is either a clue to the solution or a flaming red herring. Readers will have to decide. Then go on to consider the names of some of the characters, Turtle, Sam Rizzoli, Randy, Peter, and so on. The novel is clean, smoothly written, from the capable hands of an excellent writer. As an added bonus there are several tasty recipes in the back of the book. Well done, I say, well done.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.